Road Safety News

Highways England launches ‘rain kills’ campaign

Monday 5th December 2016

Highways England has launched a new campaign urging drivers to slow down when it’s raining, on the back of data showing that road users are 30 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in rain than in snow.

The campaign, ‘when it rains, it kills’, says that even driving within the speed limit in wet weather can be dangerous if drivers don’t allow extra space between them and the vehicle in front.

The message is being reinforced with rain-activated paint messages visible to people leaving motorway services when it is raining.

The campaign also includes a new video (above) which shows rain falling inside the home of a family imagined to have been involved in a serious road collision, along with a radio ad and posters which can be downloaded and displayed by stakeholders to support the message.

Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, said: “Most of us already slow down in snow, ice or fog but when it rains we consider it normal so don’t adapt our driving.

“The sad fact is that 2,918 people were killed or seriously injured on the roads when it was raining last year, and not slowing down to suit the current conditions was identified as a factor in one in nine of all road deaths.

“Rain makes it harder for tyres to grip the road and harder for drivers to see ahead – significantly increasing the chances of being involved in a collision. We’ve launched our new campaign to make drivers aware of the dangers and to stay safe.”

Highways England says it generally takes at least twice as long to stop on a wet road as on a dry road because tyres have less grip.

Advice for drivers includes: slowing down if rain and spray from vehicles is making it difficult to see and be seen; keeping well back from the vehicle in front; and slowing down gradually if the steering becomes unresponsive as it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road.

The campaign is the latest initiative by Highways England in its bid to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on England’s motorways and major A roads by 40% by 2020.


Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

I like the bit where drivers are advised to double their distance from the vehicle in front. Very well said but in practise if the driver only ever gives 20ft of safe distance at 30 mph he is not going to be much better off giving 40ft distance in the wet. In fact neither driver is going to be much better off. Rain doesn't kill it's the drivers who know no better and believe themselves to be safe with the imperfect understanding that in town conditions and in traffic one is bound to need to slow or stop for a variety of reasons and therefore one drives accordingly. That means just following thew vehicle in front and look for the brake lights of the vehicle in front. If they show, they slow and then they brake, you brake and we all brake together. No one is harmed. Except. It doesn't always end that way.

We need to give drivers a SAFER DISTANCE to follow, one which doesn't require us to count. It's not easy counting when there a lot of music or noise or other consternation happening in a car.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

If it was compulsory for all car drivers to ride a motorbike in the rain in any season they just might, just might, give the road surface more respect when they get back in their car. Most bikers I know drive their cars more gently in the rain.
Pat, Wales

Agree (11) | Disagree (1)

Saying "xxxx KILLS" in any health or safety message unfortunately can turn people off and can give the message less of an impact. People know 'it' doesn't kill (whatever the 'it' may be) but they accept hopefully, that 'it' can be hazardous, if not treated with respect. The rain itself doesn't kill, but drivers and riders who don't allow for it may kill or be killed, certainly, but I accept that is not quite as snappy as a tag line, although perhaps more accurate.

"Braking in the rain can cause pain!" anybody? At least it rhymes.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

The one thing that driving in the rain causes is poorer visibility. Windscreen wipers on (not replaced and ineffectual) and windscreens fogging up. In fact the whole car can fog up so all round vision is quite dramatically reduced... The visibility of motorcyclist is also mostly negated, yes negated by drops of rain on their visors/goggles. Vision can be reduced by as much as 70/80%. Add to that pedestrians walking quicker in the rain, presumably in a rush to get less wet, and with their heads down or covered not looking where they are going and one has a recipe for disaster.

Vehicles being driven at the same distance behind as if dry will be the root cause of many an incident that could have been avoided if safer space had been given in the first place. Vehicles and pedestrians would be seen earlier and compensated for before they became a statistic.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)


"Speed kills"?

You do make a valid point however.

Education of drivers in this country is dire. As an example, just look what happens when you pass a driving test - the driving instructor will say to you "yay, now you've passed your test, now, learn to drive!!"

Why is this a problem? Sure, novice drivers can jump back in their instructors car, drive down a motorway, jump out of it again and save 50p on their insurance premium or whatever, but, what about adverse weather conditions?

Us drivers have it drilled into us that doing certain things is "bad", and because it's "bad" we should "never" do it. However, despite being told things experience is how us humans really learn - if you're in a predominately city environment and the worst thing you encounter is a translucent puddle, how on earth is one going to cope with experiencing the bundle of joy that is rural tarmacadam coated with black ice - on a sharp corner?

We currently don't get the chance to learn to respect hazards, except, if, let's say we nearly cock it up going around a bend :-)
David Weston

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)

David.....Its even worse for motorcyclists. At least a car driver will have had to endure some 40 or 60 hours of tuition before taking the test and I would presume that some of that tuition will have taken place in wet weather.

Not so for a motorcyclist who can undertake a course that may, and I say may, last some 6 hours and then be left alone for the rest of their lives. Unless they are still on motorcycles 2 years later and then they undergo exactly the same tuition as before.

Something is wrong somewhere and it needs looking into. Its no wonder that the younger age groups are over represented in incidents and collisions and as they are obviously at greater risk.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

I have always liked the French approach of lowering the speed limit on autoroutes in the wet. I am no expert, but surely this sends a message that slowing in the rain is a good idea and there is then potential for it to become a habit that it is practised across all roads, not just the autoroutes? I do not know what is happening to me, as I have just found myself praising the French for their driving - whatever next?
David, Suffolk

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

I suppose what I was getting at, is that wet surfaces only really affect control when braking sharply or cornering hard and not in normal everyday driving, which is why motorists might not take the message seriously. Snow and ice however can cause instant loss of grip and contol at walking speeds and unlike rain, sometimes in an unpredictable way, although perhaps that is more obvious to motorists. Having said that, I've no doubt this winter, regardless of whether it's snow, ice or rain, there will as ever, be incidences where the driver failed to make allowance for the road condition.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

What is missing from this campaign, and most other campaigns, is that it is not tackling the main issue. The main issue here is lack of friction between the tyre and the road surface due to water. Many young drivers do not understand this. The campaign should simply explain the issue and, then drivers will have an understanding of why they should slow down in the rain. Simply saying that rain kills and you should slow down is likely to be completely ineffective.
Alan Kennedy Durham

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

There is a fundamental road safety principal involved here that has been around for several centuries ever since roads took horse draw traffic and people drove round with carts and carriages. It pre dates speeding as there was no measure of it in those earlier years, just an understanding that excessive speeds and a lack of distance can cause accidents.

I refer to A.C.D.A. - Assured Clear Distance Ahead. This refers to the distances which can be seen to be clear of hazards. Further that the distance is one in which the driver (persons in charge of locomotive or later automobile) should be able to bring his vehicle to a halt. Understanding that the faster one travels the greater the safe distance has to be. It pre dates automobiles by at least 100 years.

It's a fundamental principle that we should all adhere to and one that has become lost with our preoccupation with speed being the greatest and sometimes the only danger. Both in terms of exceeding the speed limit and otherwise in terms of inappropriate speeds. Safe Space was a serious consideration well before automobiles were ever invented.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

What evidence do you have that driving instructors say "yay, now you've passed your test, now, learn to drive!!". A very flippant comment to make and labels all driving instructors unfairly. In reality your statement is "way off the mark" and bares no resemblance to the article.
Jack Cook Doncaster

Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

@Jack: My own personal experience.

Of course, on that summers' day 5 years ago my driving instructor didn't say it in that rather causal tone (the phrase 'you have passed a test, now learn to drive' was used) - it was heavily insinuating that the standard of driving that 'examiners look for does not tally up to what the standard of driving should really be, nor to the standard of what is currently shown by the vox pop out on the roads.

Most driving instructors are not there to show you the extreme limits of your vehicle, as in what happens if you approach a rather sharp corner at speeds near to the limit of traction. I would be shocked if there are driving instructors that do challenge their pupils with speeds and manoeuvers in questionable conditions that only the extremely experienced and/or the reckless would perform.

They're there to show you to pass to a certain, defined standard. As part of this, there is no scope to for pupils to learn what the limits of traction are.

I stand by my comments.
David Weston, Corby

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

When a person passes their test they have proved that they have reached a certain standard (all be it a minimum standard) but they can "drive". What they are lacking is "experience" which can only be gained by time driving in varying conditions. It doesn't matter how much time a person spends with their instructor they are still under supervision, and they know it. Having passed their test they now need to gain experience by driving on their own but this is not "learning to drive". It's probably more accurate saying it is learning to "survive". You say your instructor "didn't say it in that rather casual tone" so why post it in that way? So it is a very flippant remark and very unfair to driving instructors.

You have also posted :- "Most driving instructors are not there to show you the extreme limits of your vehicle, as in what happens if you approach a rather sharp corner at speeds near to the limit of traction. I would be shocked if there are driving instructors that do challenge their pupils with speeds and manoeuvres in questionable conditions that only the extremely experienced and/or the reckless would perform. They're there to show you to pass to a certain, defined standard. As part of this, there is no scope to for pupils to learn what the limits of traction are".

Again making comments about instructors that you can't justify with any valid evidence.
Jack Cook Doncaster

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

Perhaps what should have been said is 'I have shown you all I can to enable you to pass your driving test. Now it's up to you to learn how to survive.' I wish you luck....... How's that?

I believe that the basics is the basics, sufficient enough to enable one to pass the test and that then leaves a bloody big hole for others to fall into.

What we need is a progressinon after the test to enable drivers to experience driving in the rain, in the dark, on country roads, in or rather on motorways etc. so that training is not quite finished. This may continue for, say, a period of 12 months until all the boxes are ticked and the driver is more experienced and presumably safer on our roads, in all conditions.

That's more back to the subject. We were getting a bit bogged down.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

When I passed my test, my instructor also said "all we've done is brought you up to test standard - from now on you'll still be learning" (true). I don't think that necessarily shows instructors in a bad light - quite the opposite - it's sound advice and hopefully would deter the young - especially male - driver from getting too cocky and think they're expert because they've 'passed a test'.

The Highway Code does have advice on driving in adverse weather conditions, so in the absence of rain, snow and fog on a driving lesson, perhaps the instructor should at least discuss those scenarios with the pupil, if they don't already.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

It is currently down to the individual to go on with additional training. Experience/tuition for driving on motorways, in bad weather, at night etc is already available - Pass Plus across the UK and Pass Plus Cymru (PPC) in Wales. Discussing traction and tyre grip in the wet is covered in many PPC courses. But even at heavily subsidised prices not many new drivers choose to take it up. A real shame.
Pat, Wales

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

An afterthought - neither the article nor any contributors have mentioned anti-lock brakes and how much difference they can make when hard braking in the wet. I don't know if driving tuition covers this as a matter of course, i.e. what it is and how to react to it etc. but I suspect many drivers out there don't understand it and maybe taken by surprise if and when it activates. There was a time when cadence braking was the way to deal with locking wheels, but again not many would have known about it but as the manufacturers have give us ABS, the least we could do is be aware of it.

Having said all that, if we keep our speed down, maintain our safe distances and be alert, we shouldn't need either technique - in the rain anyway...snow and ice is different - the slightest dab on the brakes or twitch of the steering wheel can cause instant loss of control.
Hugh Jones

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

All very well the Highways Authority saying what they say. I also believe that drivers are unaware of the extent of the problem associated with wet weather as they do suffer to be more up the rear end of my car more than usual. They also seem to be of a mind set that they need to get home earlier in case the car gets wet? It's not just when its raining of course, its whenever the road surface is wet that there is a problem. Here is the rub though. Just what greater distance, or as said extra space, should a driver give to be safe. Ten foot or ten yards. Twice the distance or maybe 10 times the distance. Leaving it to their imagination is wasting one's time. Without saying what is safe and what isn't its quite possible that a driver may merely give an extra 10 ft and honestly believe that they are now safe.

What a stupid intervention or campaign. If one considered self regulation then learn that it doesn't work. Drivers appreciate facts and figures and not just more space.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)